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How Do You Teach A Horse To Neck Rein

How Do You Teach A Horse To Neck Rein

Teaching a horse to neck rein is an essential skill for both horse and rider. Neck reining allows the rider to guide the horse with subtle cues, making communication more efficient and effective. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced rider, understanding the process of teaching a horse to neck rein is crucial for a successful partnership. In this article, we will explore the steps involved in teaching a horse to neck rein and provide valuable insights to help you achieve this goal.

Understanding Neck Reining

Neck reining is a technique used to guide a horse by using indirect rein pressure. Unlike direct rein riding, where the rider pulls on one rein to turn the horse’s head, neck reining involves using the reins against the horse’s neck to signal the desired direction. This technique is commonly used in Western riding disciplines and is highly valued for its precision and subtlety.

Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Neck Reining

1. Establish a Solid Foundation

Before introducing neck reining, it is crucial to ensure that your horse has a solid foundation in basic riding skills. This includes understanding and responding to direct rein cues, stopping, backing up, and moving off leg pressure. A well-trained horse will be more receptive to learning new techniques, such as neck reining.

2. Introduce the Neck Rein Cue

Start by introducing the neck rein cue from the ground. Stand on the left side of your horse and hold the reins in your left hand, allowing them to rest against the horse’s neck. Apply gentle pressure with the reins against the horse’s neck while simultaneously applying leg pressure on the right side. As soon as the horse responds by moving away from the pressure, release the cues and reward the horse with praise or a treat.

3. Reinforce the Cue Under Saddle

Once your horse understands the neck rein cue from the ground, it’s time to reinforce the cue under saddle. Begin at a walk and apply the neck rein cue by gently moving your hand and allowing the reins to rest against the horse’s neck. Simultaneously apply leg pressure on the opposite side to reinforce the desired direction. Be patient and consistent, rewarding your horse for correct responses.

4. Gradually Increase Difficulty

As your horse becomes more comfortable with neck reining at a walk, gradually increase the difficulty by introducing the cue at a trot and eventually a canter. Start with large, wide turns and gradually progress to tighter turns and more precise maneuvers. Remember to reward your horse for correct responses and provide clear and consistent cues.

5. Practice and Refine

Consistent practice is key to teaching a horse to neck rein effectively. Set aside dedicated training sessions to work on neck reining skills, but also incorporate it into your regular riding routine. Practice in different environments and situations to ensure your horse can neck rein confidently in various scenarios.

Benefits of Neck Reining

Neck reining offers several benefits for both horse and rider. Here are some of the advantages:

  • Improved communication: Neck reining allows for subtle cues, making communication between horse and rider more efficient and effective.
  • One-handed riding: Neck reining enables riders to guide their horses with one hand, leaving the other hand free for other tasks, such as roping or opening gates.
  • Enhanced precision: With neck reining, riders can achieve precise maneuvers and turns with minimal rein movement.
  • Smooth transitions: Neck reining promotes smooth transitions between gaits, enhancing the overall riding experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take to teach a horse to neck rein?

The time it takes to teach a horse to neck rein can vary depending on the horse’s previous training and temperament. Some horses may pick up the concept quickly, while others may require more time and repetition. It is important to be patient and consistent throughout the training process.

2. Can any horse learn to neck rein?

While most horses can learn to neck rein, some may find it more challenging than others. Horses with a solid foundation in basic riding skills and a willingness to learn are generally more receptive to neck reining. However, with proper training and patience, most horses can develop this skill.

3. Are there any specific cues or aids for neck reining?

The primary cue for neck reining is the indirect rein pressure applied against the horse’s neck. This cue is typically accompanied by leg pressure on the opposite side to reinforce the desired direction. It is important to maintain a light and consistent contact with the reins while using clear and precise leg aids.

4. Can neck reining be used in English riding disciplines?

While neck reining is more commonly associated with Western riding, some English riders also incorporate neck reining techniques into their training. The principles of neck reining, such as subtle cues and indirect rein pressure, can be beneficial in any riding discipline.

5. What if my horse doesn’t respond to the neck rein cue?

If your horse is not responding to the neck rein cue, it is essential to evaluate your aids and ensure they are clear and consistent. Check for any physical discomfort or resistance that may be hindering your horse’s response. If necessary, seek guidance from a qualified trainer or instructor to address any training issues.

6. Can I use a neck rein cue in combination with direct rein cues?

Yes, it is common to use a combination of neck rein and direct rein cues, especially during the initial stages of teaching a horse to neck rein. As your horse becomes more proficient in neck reining, you can gradually rely more on the neck rein cue and reduce the use of direct rein cues.


Teaching a horse to neck rein is a valuable skill that enhances communication and precision between horse and rider. By following a step-by-step approach, reinforcing the cue under saddle, and gradually increasing difficulty, you can successfully teach your horse to neck rein. Remember to be patient, consistent, and reward your horse for correct responses. Neck reining offers numerous benefits, including improved communication, one-handed riding, enhanced precision, and smooth transitions. With practice and dedication, you and your horse can master the art of neck reining.